Google has an offer you might not refuse

Subject: General Tech | April 9, 2014 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: google, winxp, Chromebook

Google has an offer for businesses that it hopes will be attractive enough to get them to abandon Windows complete instead of upgrading from WinXP to a new version of a Microsoft OS.  They are offering businesses $100 off any managed Chromebook or other ChromeOS device and $200 if it will be running VMWare Desktop as a Service.  For those who have to go through major upgrades and software re-writes this might be a reasonable alternative since these companies are less than pleased at the EOL of WinXP and now have an opportunity to try or at least test an alternative OS.  It is unlikely that Windows will go the way of "tamagotchis and parachute pants" Google's Amit Singh is quoted as saying by The Inquirer but the demise of WinXP offers a unique opportunity for change to many businesses which has previously been economically unfeasable.

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"GOOGLE HAS BEEN QUICK to jump on the demise of Windows XP, and is looking to persuade businesses still running the operating system to buy Google Chromebooks instead."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Seagate Packs 6TB Into 3.5" 7200 RPM Enterprise Capacity Hard Drive

Subject: Storage | April 8, 2014 - 11:22 PM |
Tagged: Seagate, sata 6Gbs, SAS, Hard Drive, enterprise, 6tb

Seagate's latest enterprise class hard drive offers up to 6TB of space in a 3.5" form factor. The Enterprise Capacity series drive comes in both SATA III 6Gbps and 12Gbps SAS interfaces. Seagate was able to achieve an impressive 1,000 Gb/inch or about 1.25 TB per platter with the drive's five total platters adding up to the 6TB capacity. Perhaps even more impressively, Seagate was able to offer up a 6TB, five platter, 7,200 RPM drive without using helium.

The 6TB Enterprise Capacity hard drive comes with a 128MB DRAM cache. It is rated at 216 MB/s for sequential transfer speeds and an average latency of 4.16 milliseconds. The drive also supports 256-bit AES encryption and an instant secure erase function which overwrites data multiple times. Seagate further claims the drive is rated for 24/7 workloads at 550TB/year with a MTBF of 1.4 million hours. The drive comes with a five year warranty.

Seagate Enterprise Capacity 6TB Hard Drive.jpg

The drive will come in several variants depending on the storage interface. LaCie has already committed to using the new drives in its dual bay external storage products. Seagate has not released pricing on the new 6TB drive, but stated that it would price the drive at the same $/GB as last year's 4TB model. Expect the price to be around $650 MSRP before contract and bulk order deals.

It is a neat drive for sure, and I hope that the technology trickles down to the consumer space quickly, as 4TB has been the maximum single drive capacity for far too long!

For now, the drive will be used in the datacenter, production house, and security/surveillance markets (particularly in the datacenter market where rack space is at a premium).

Source: Tech Report

Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler Announced

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | April 8, 2014 - 08:44 PM |
Tagged: cpu cooler, NH-D15, noctua

Known primarily for large and quiet CPU coolers, Noctua is not shy to attach a pair of 140mm fans to a chunk of metal. The NH-D15, announced today, can cool just about any current, mainstream or enthusiast CPU from AMD or Intel. It attaches to the CPU with a copper plate, which is connected to several copper heatpipes, which leads into two towers of aluminum fins. It is plated with nickel to prevent corrosion (I am not sure about the bottom).

As is common for these types of heat sinks, they are daunting to look at. Of course, that is not a bad thing, unless you have a very small case, but it might make you look at your stock fan differently. Noctua is claiming that their two fans spin at a maximum of 1500 RPM and a minimum of 300 RPM. This leads to a listed maximum noise value of 24.6 dBA, around the background noise of a quiet rural area at night.

The NH-D15 will be available mid-April for just shy of $100 USD.

Source: Noctua

Qualcomm Reveals New Flagship Snapdragon 808 and 810 64-Bit SoCs Coming In 2015

Subject: Mobile | April 8, 2014 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: SoC, snapdragon, qualcomm, LTE, ARMv8, adreno, 64-bit

Qualcomm has announced two new flagship 64-bit SoCs with the Snapdragon 808 and Snapdragon 810. The new chips will begin sampling later this year and should start showing up in high end smartphones towards the second half of 2015. The new 800-series parts join the previously announced mid-range Snapdragon 610 and 615 which are also 64-bit ARMv8 parts.

The Snapdragon 810 is Qualcomm's new flagship processor. The chip features four ARM Cortex A57 cores and four Cortex A53 cores in a big.LITTLE configuration, an Adreno 430 GPU, and support for Category 6 LTE (up to 300 Mbps downloads) and LPDDR4 memory. This flagship part uses the 64-bit ARMv8 ISA. The new Adreno 430 GPU integrated in the SoC is reportedly 30% faster than the Adreno 420 GPU in the Snapdragon 805 processor.

Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC.jpg

In addition to the flagship part, Qualcomm is also releasing the Snapdragon 808 which pairs two Cortex A57 CPU cores and four Cortex A53 CPU cores in a big.LITTLE configuration with an Adreno 418 (approximately 20% faster than the popular Adreno 320) GPU. This chip supports LPDDR3 memory and Qualcomm's new Category 6 LTE modem.

Both the 808 and 810 have Adreno GPUs which support OpenGL ES 3.1. The new chips support a slew of wireless I/O including Categrory 6 LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, and NFC.

Qualcomm is reportedly planning to produce these SoCs on a 20nm process. For reference, the mid-range 64-bit Snapdragon 610 and 615 use a 28nm LP manufacturing process. The new 20nm process (presumably from TSMC) should enable improved battery life and clockspeed headroom on the flagship parts. Exactly how big the mentioned gains will be will depend on the specific manufacturing process, with smaller gains from a bulk/planar process shrink or greater improvements coming from more advanced methods such as FD-SOI if the new chip on a 20nm process is the same transistor count as one on a 28nm process (which is being used in existing chips).

The 808 and 810 parts are the new high-end 64-bit chips which will effectively supplant the 32-bit Snapdragon 805 which is a marginal update over the Snapdragon 800. The naming conventions and product lineups are getting a bit crazy here, but suffice it to say that the 808 and 810 are the effective successors to the 800 while the 805 is a stop-gap upgrade while Qualcomm moves to 64-bit ARMv8 and secures manufacturing for the new chips which should be slightly faster CPU-wise, notably faster GPU-wise and more capable with the faster cellular modem support and 64-bit ISA support.

For those wondering, the press release also states that the company is still working on development of its custom 64-bit Krait CPU architecture. However, it does not appear that 64-bit Krait will be ready by the first half of 2015, which is why Qualcomm has opted to use ARM's Cortex A57 and A53 cores in its upcoming flagship 808 and 810 SoCs.

Source: Qualcomm

NAB 2014: Elgato Thunderbolt Dock Announced

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 07:07 PM |
Tagged: thunderbolt, NAB 14, NAB, Elgato

Hmm, this is more Thunderbolt than I think we heard all year. Is there like, a video production event going on right now? No matter, because news is news (and so are product announcements). The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock connects to Thunderbolt, go figure, and provides three USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, one HDMI 1.4 output, one 3.5mm headphone jack, and one 3.5mm microphone jack. It also has a second Thunderbolt port to daisy chain with other devices, which is a common trait in Thunderbolt devices. It will retail for $229.95.

Yup, it is a Thunderbolt accessory.

Why does it seem like every Mac user in commercials have a studio apartment???

It makes sense to see devices like this. Thunderbolt is really an extension of PCIe which allows anything that was once an add-in board to be connected externally, albeit with significantly reduced bandwidth compared to PCIe 3.0 16x. This looks very clean, tidy, and much more desirable than crawling under the desk and swapping wires and thumb drives in the darkness behind your PC.

I would like to see some benchmarks on this device, however. Clearly, the sum of these outputs should be higher than the bandwidth allowed by Thunderbolt (especially if daisy-chaining another Thunderbolt device). I wonder how efficient it will be at keeping high quality signals when several devices are connected and running simultaneously.

The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock is available now for computers with a Thunderbolt port and either Mac OSX 10.9 or Windows 8.1. I guess us Windows 7 fans need to get used to the dust bunnies behind our PCs for a little longer...

Source: Elgato

Lenovo Launches New Tab A7-50, A8, and A10 Android Tablets

Subject: Mobile | April 8, 2014 - 07:01 PM |
Tagged: tablet, tab a8, tab a7-50, tab a10, mtk 8121, mediatek, Lenovo, android 4.2

Today, Lenovo announced a refreshed lineup of its A-series tablets including the A7-50, A8, and A10. The new tablets take a common hardware platform and scale it from a 7-inch tablet to a 10-inch tablet with optional keyboard. All three tablets run the Android 4.2 operating system and will be available in May.

Lenovo A7 7-inch Android Tablet.jpg

The Lenovo TAB A7-50 Android 4.2 tablet.

The new Lenovo TAB A-series is powered by a quad core MediaTek 8121 SoC clocked at 1.3 GHz paired with 1GB of LP-DDR2 memory and 16GB of internal flash storage. Users can add an additional 32GB of storage with a micro SD card. Networking is handled by an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 radio along with an optional SIM card slot on certain models (cellular functionality not available in the North American market). The tablets come with IPS touchscreens with a resolution of 1280 x 800. Lenovo includes a 2MP webcam and a 5MP rear facing camera on all three A-series tablets. The A10 further adds stereo speakers and compatibility with a keyboard dock.

Lenovo rates all three tablets at eight hours of battery life.

Lenovo A8 8-inch Android Tablet.jpg

The Lenovo TAB A8 tablet.

Beyond the Lenovo TAB A10 being available with a Bluetooth keyboard dock, the only major differences between the new three A-series tablets are physical dimensions, screen size, and weight. The Lenovo TAB A7-50 measures 198x121.2x9.9mm and weighs 0.70 lbs. The TAB A8 meanwhile measures 217x136x8.9mm and weighs slightly more at 0.79 lbs. Finally, the TAB A10 measures 264x176.5x8.9mm and weighs 1.2 lbs.

The Lenovo TAB A10 with its Bluetooth keyboard dock.

The 7-inch Lenovo Tab A7-50 has an MSRP of $129 while the 8-Inch Tab A8 has an MSRP of $179. The 10.1-inch Tab A10 has a base price of $249 and is also available as a tablet and keyboard bundle for $299.

What do you think about Lenovo's new A-series lineup? On one hand, you have three size options at competitive prices, but on the other you only have a single option as far as internal specifications and screen resolution no matter the screen size. If you can live with the MTK 8121 and 1GB of RAM, they could be a viable option.

Read more about Lenovo tablets such as the Yoga 8 and Yoga 10 at PC Perspective.

Source: Lenovo

AMD Selects Asetek to Liquid Cool The World’s Fastest Graphics Card

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 8, 2014 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: asetek, amd, r9 295x2

If you wondered where the custom cooler for the impressively powerful AMD Radeon R9 295X2 came from then wonder no more.  The cooler was designed specifically for this card by Asetek, a veteran in cooling computer components with water.  You should keep that in mind the next time you think about picking up a third party watercooler!

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Asetek, the world’s leading supplier of computer liquid cooling solutions, today announced that its liquid cooling technology will be used to cool AMD’s latest flagship graphics card. The new AMD Radeon R9 295X2 is the world’s fastest graphics card. Boasting 8 gigabytes of memory and over 11 teraflops of computing power, the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 graphics card is the undisputed graphics performance champion.

“Today’s high-end graphic cards pack insane amounts of power into a very small area and removing that heat is no small task. Utilizing our liquid cooling for graphics cards unlocks new opportunities for performance and low noise,” said André Sloth Eriksen, Founder and CEO of Asetek. “The fact that AMD has chosen Asetek liquid cooling for their reference cooling design is a testament to the reliability and performance of our technology.”

The AMD Radeon R9 295X2 is the first graphics card reference design ever to ship with an advanced closed-loop water cooling system. The Asetek-developed liquid cooling system on the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 graphics card delivers significant benefits for the performance-hungry enthusiast, hardcore gamer or Bitcoin miner. Users will appreciate the unobtrusive noise, low GPU and component temperatures, and blistering performance - right out of the box.

“As the most powerful graphics card offered to date, we knew we needed an outstanding custom cooling solution for the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 graphics card,” said Matt Skynner, corporate vice president and general manager, Graphics Business Unit, AMD. “Asetek’s liquid cooling embodies the efficient performance, reliability and reputation we were seeking in a partner. As GPUs become more powerful, the benefits of collaborating with Asetek and integrating our world-class technologies are clear.”

The AMD Radeon R9 295X2 graphics card utilizes Asetek’s proven, maintenance free, factory sealed liquid cooling technology to cool the two powerful GPUs. This liquid cooling design ensures continuous stability even under full load. The card is easy to install and fits in most computer cases on the market today. With more than 1.5 million units in the field today, Asetek liquid cooling provides worry free operation to gamers and PC enthusiasts alike.

Source: Asetek

Some NVIDIA R337.50 Driver Controversy

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 8, 2014 - 06:44 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, drivers

NVIDIA's GeForce 337.50 Driver was said to address performance when running DirectX 11-based software. Now that it is out, multiple sources are claiming the vendor-supplied benchmarks are exaggerated or simply untrue.

nvidia-337-sli.png

ExtremeTech compiled benchmarks from Anandtech and BlackHoleTec.

Going alphabetically, Anandtech tested the R337.50 and R331.xx drivers with a GeForce GTX 780 Ti, finding a double-digit increase with BioShock: Infinite and Metro: Last Light and basically zero improvement for GRID 2, Rome II, Crysis: Warhead, Crysis 3, and Company of Heroes 2. Adding a second GTX 780 Ti into the mix helped matters, seeing a 76% increase in Rome II and about 9% in most of the other titles.

BlackHoleTec is next. Testing the mid-range, but overclocked GeForce 760 between R337.50 and R335.23 drivers, they found slight improvements (1-3 FPS), except for Battlefield 4 and Skyrim (the latter is not DX11 to be fair) which noticed a slight reduction in performance (about 1 FPS).

ExtremeTech, finally, published one benchmark but it did not compare between drivers. All it really shows is CPU scaling in AMD GPUs.

Unfortunately, I do not have any benchmarks to present of my own because I am not a GPU reviewer nor do I have a GPU testbed. Ironically, the launch of the Radeon R9 295 X2 video card might have lessened that number of benchmarks available for NVIDIA's driver, who knows?

If it is true, and R337.50 does basically nothing in a setup with one GPU, I am not exactly sure what NVIDIA was hoping to accomplish. Of course someone was going to test it and publish their results. The point of the driver update was apparently to show how having a close relationship with Microsoft can lead you to better PC gaming products now and in the future. That can really only be the story if you have something to show. Now, at least I expect, we will probably see more positive commentary about Mantle - at least when people are not talking about DirectX 12.

If you own a GeForce card, I would still install the new driver though, especially if you have an SLi configuration. Scaling to a second GPU does see measurable improvements with Release 337.50. Even for a single-card configuration, it certainly should not hurt anything.

Source: ExtremeTech

NVIDIA Will Present Global Impact Award And $150,000 Grant To Researchers At GTC 2015

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2014 - 05:03 PM |
Tagged: research, nvidia, GTC, gpgpu, global impact award

During the GPU Technology Conference last month, NVIDIA introduced a new annual grant called the Global Impact Award. The grant awards $150,000 to researchers using NVIDIA GPUs to research issues with worldwide impact such as disease research, drug design, medical imaging, genome mapping, urban planning, and other "complex social and scientific problems."

NVIDIA Global Impact Award.png

NVIDIA will be presenting the Global Impact Award to the winning researcher or non-profit institution at next year's GPU Technology Conference (GTC 2015). Individual researchers, universities, and non-profit research institutions that are using GPUs as a significant enabling technology in their research are eligible for the grant. Both third party and self-nomiations (.doc form) are accepted with the nominated candidates being evaluated based on several factors including the level of innovation, social impact, and current state of the research and its effectiveness in approaching the problem. Submissions for nominations are due by December 12, 2014 with the finalists being announced by NVIDIA on March 13, 2015. NVIDIA will then reveal the winner of the $150,000 grant at GTC 2015 (April 28, 2015).

The researcher, university, or non-profit firm can be located anywhere in the world, and the grant money can be assigned to a department, initiative, or a single project. The massively parallel nature of modern GPUs makes them ideal for many times of research with scalable projects, and I think the Global Impact Award is a welcome incentive to encourage the use of GPGPU in applicable research projects. I am interested to see what the winner will do with the money and where the research leads.

More information on the Global Impact Award can be found on the NVIDIA website.

Source: NVIDIA

NAB 2014: Intel Iris Pro Support in Adobe Creative Cloud (CC)

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: Intel, NAB, NAB 14, iris pro, Adobe, premiere pro, Adobe CC

When Adobe started to GPU-accelerate their applications beyond OpenGL, it started with NVIDIA and its CUDA platform. After some period of time, they started to integrate OpenCL support and bring AMD into the fold. At first, it was limited to a couple of Apple laptops but has since expanded to include several GPUs on both OSX and Windows. Since then, Adobe switched to a subscription-based release system and has published updates on a more rapid schedule. The next update of Adobe Premiere Pro CC will bring OpenCL to Intel Iris Pro iGPUs.

Intel-IrisPro-Adobe-Masking.jpg

Of course, they specifically mentioned Adobe Premiere Pro CC which suggests that Photoshop CC users might be coming later. The press release does suggest that the update will affect both Mac and Windows versions of Adobe Premiere Pro CC, however, so at least platforms will not be divided. Well, that is, if you find a Windows machine with Iris Pro graphics. They do exist...

A release date has not been announced for this software upgrade.

Source: Intel

NAB 2014: Thunderbolt Networking Announced for Windows

Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 03:26 PM |
Tagged: NAB, NAB 14, Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt

Video professionals are still interested in Thunderbolt in probably much the same way as Firewire needed to be pried from their cold, dead hands. It is a very high bandwidth connector, useful for sending and receiving 4K video. Also, it was originally exclusive to Apple so you can guess which industries were first-adopters. Intel has focused their Thunderbolt announcements on the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. This year, Thunderbolt Networking will be available for Windows via a driver. This will allow any combination of Macs and Windows PCs to be paired together by a 10 Gigabit network.

Intel-Thunderbolt2-Networking.jpg

Of course, this is not going to be something that you can plug into a router. This is a point-to-point network for sharing files between two devices... really fast. Perhaps one use case would be a workstation with a Mac and a Windows PC on a KVM switch. If both are connected with Thunderbolt 2, they could share the same storage pool.

While this feature already exists on Apple devices, the PC driver will be available... "soon".

Source: Intel

Corsair Released Vengeance K70 Mechanical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | April 8, 2014 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: Vengeance K70, corsair

Update (4/8/2014 @ 8:48 PM EDT): Some commenters pointed out that the K70 already exists and has been on sale for quite some time. That is true, however Corsair has refreshed the line, apparently adding Cherry MX Blue and Brown along with the "original MX Red". It is a new product that will be released mid-April.

No, this is not the Cherry MX RGB keyboard; we still do not know when that will come out. The K70 is a mechanical keyboard made out of blackened (anodized) aluminum with red backlights in each keycap. It comes in either Cherry MX Blue, Red, or Brown. Unlike some of their previous models, every key is mechanical. It is advertised as "100% anti-ghosted with full n-key rollover". Being a USB keyboard, it is unclear whether it actually allows every key to be pressed simultaneously or whether it is limited by the interface.

CorsairK70.png

That said, previous Corsair keyboards registered as 3 USB devices and split inputs between the three to overcome 6KRO limits, thus allowing for 18-key rollover. This should be sufficient for all quadridextrous typists. For the mental image of someone typing with their eight fingers, two thumbs, and all but two of their ten toes, you are welcome.

Also, and I have said this before, but it kills me when a keyboard based on an NKRO key matrix (even if it is limited by USB) needs to describe itself as "Anti-ghosting". Anti-ghosting is a hack which prevents unintended keypresses by locking-out the keyboard when it gets confused. Many keyboards, to save money, group keys together in their grid of circuits. Basically, each key is assigned to two circuits and the keyboard can thus see which switches are pressed by their pairings. The keyboard does not know how many switches are open on each circuit, just that at least one is. Ghosting occurs when three or more keypresses cause the same signals as four or more keys. The keyboard then has two options: register all possible keypresses or jam and ignore everything (anti-ghosting). An NKRO-based matrix uses diodes to further isolate keys so that each can be individually addressed.

Thus an NKRO keyboard never needs to jam. It is immune to the conditions. Unfortunately, if they did not advertise anti-ghosting, the uninformed will think it is an inferior keyboard... rather than so superior that it is immune to the problem in the first place.

Back on the Vengeance K70, it will be available this month for $129.99 USD (MSRP).

Source: Corsair

Amazon Takes On Apple TV, Roku, and Ouya With $99 Fire TV Streaming Box

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2014 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: streaming box, Netflix, media streaming, html, fire tv, Android, amazon

Amazon is making a play for the living room with its new Fire TV. The tiny box offers up mobile gaming along with movie and music streaming. Users will be able to tap into Amazon’s own Prime Instant Video collection in addition to various streaming video and music services from partners (see below). The box runs an operating system based on Android and HTML and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC which makes it about as powerful as today’s mid-range smartphones. At $99, the Fire TV is, ahem, a shot across the bow of devices from Apple, Roku, and Ouya.

Amazon Fire TV.jpg

The box measures 4.5" x 4.5" x 0.7" and comes bundled with a remote small remote control. Amazon provides hardware ports for HDMI, optical audio output, Ethernet, and USB. The remote has basic playback controls along with a microphone used for the voice search functionality. The Fire TV is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC with four Krait 300 CPU cores clocked at 1.7 GHz and an Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of DDR2 memory at 533 MHz, and 8GB of internal flash memory. Networking includes wired Ethernet and a 802.11n + Bluetooth 4.0 radio. A large heatsink is used to passively cool all of the components.

The Fire TV is launching with a number of applications from partners. Users can stream video from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vimeo, Vudu, Flixter, NBA, and YouTube among others. Music apps include Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Vevo. Finally, users can play back music and photos from their Amazon Cloud Drive storage. Amazon further offers up an app store for free and paid games. For example, users will be able to play Minecraft Pocket Edition, The Walking Dead, or Sev Zero using the included remote or optional $39.99 game pad.

Amazon Fire TV Game Controller 1.jpg

For media junkies with children Amazon has added the FreeTime functionality from its Kindle tablets to the Fire TV. FreeTime restricts the device to kid-friendly programming and a new optional $2.99 per month FreeTime Unlimited subscription offers up a catalog of kid-friendly media for streaming. Other software features include X-Ray (in-media information, such as identifying an actor) and ASAP which attempts to determine what programs you are likely to stream next and begin caching it in the background. For example, it will begin to cache the next episode of a TV series so that when you go to watch the next episode you will not see any loading screens.

The FireTV is a compelling alternative to the Roku (latest being the $50 Streaming Stick) and Apple TV (so long as you are not already invested in the Apple / iTunes ecosystem) while also offering up mobile gaming on the living room TV in a more-polished way that the Ouya ever did. The $99 Fire TV is available from Amazon immediately.

I think the Fire TV has real potential to catch on with most consumers, though the real test for enthusiasts and readers of PC Per will be to see if the extra features and Amazon polish will be worth the price premium over cheaper options like the Chromecast and Raspberry Pi setups.

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information and hands-on experience with Amazon's latest bit of hardware.

Source: Amazon

Microsoft's customers are not always right

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2014 - 12:53 PM |
Tagged: winxp, microsoft, dumb

With around 95% of the world's ATMs and over 27% of PCs still running WinXP, not counting the ones hiding behind enterprise firewalls, it is rather ironic to refer to XP as dead.  Referring to it as unsupported is certainly more accurate though considering the number of governments and banks around the world which have paid Microsoft to extend support that is not completely factual either.  After 13 years of service, perhaps Microsoft has found a new business model to squeeze a bit more profit from WinXP by charging for updates; if they don't take advantage of it then there are third parties which would be more than happy to profit from those who plan to continue to use WinXP.

This forced upgrade makes some sense for Microsoft as it will lower the legacy workload that XP has caused over 3 new generations of OS but at the same time there is obviously money to be made from supporting large corporations, governments and institutions.  This will also cause a bit of a backlash in the boardroom as the lofty minds in upper management dig their heels in about having to learn a new interface and begin to question what happens when support for the version of Windows they chose to replace WinXP expires and they are again forced to spend huge amounts of money upgrading again.  It is unlikely that a large majority of these companies will make the move to Linux but they may well hear about that OS for the first time and consider testing it in limited fashion.  Two things are for certain; Microsoft has at the least annoyed some very powerful corporate heads and that no one will care when support for Vista ends in 2017.

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"Introduced by Microsoft in 2001, Windows "eXPerience" was the seventh version of Windows released by Microsoft as a convergent replacement for the short lived Windows 2000 and Windows ME, becoming Microsoft's first consumer PC operating system based on the Windows NT code base."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

SK Hynix Develops 128GB Stick of DDR4 RAM

Subject: General Tech, Memory | April 8, 2014 - 02:03 AM |
Tagged: Hynix, ddr4

... I'll take two.

SK Hynix, one of the leading producers of RAM modules, announced a single stick of DDR4 with 128GB capacity. While this is intended for the server room, I hope that we will see workstation components attempt to be compatible in the near future. It is difficult to find a board that can support more than 64GB at all, let alone twice that, per stick.

ram.jpg

As for the typical desktop users? Let's face it, this is overkill, eight times over, generously, per stick. Web browsers are beginning to ring up the memory usage as more and more tabs are loaded simultaneously but, otherwise, there is little use for it for them.

But for those of us who are not them, this could be awesome. It is still unclear how much memory a Haswell-EX motherboard, running on an Intel X99 chipset, will support. I can assume that this stick will not be compatible... but we can always hope, right?

Source: SK Hynix

BUILD 2014: Windows Sideloading Changes Announced

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 01:11 AM |
Tagged: BUILD 2014, microsoft, windows, winRT

A few days ago, I reported on the news from BUILD 2014 that Windows would see the return of the Start Menu and windowed apps. These features, which are not included with today's Windows 8.1 Update 1, will come in a later version. While I found these interface changes interesting, I reiterated that the user interface was not my concern: Windows Store certification was. I did leave room for a little hope, however, because Microsoft scheduled an announcement of changes. It was focused on enterprise customers, so I did not hold my breath.

And some things did change... but not enough for the non-enterprise user.

tiles2.jpg

Microsoft is still hanging on to the curation of apps, except for "domain-joined" x86 Enterprise and x86 Pro PCs; RT devices and "not domain-joined" computers will only allow sideloaded apps with a key. This certificate (key) is not free for everyone. Of course, this does not have anything to do with native x86 applications. Thankfully, the prospect of WinRT APIs eventually replacing Win32, completely, seems less likely now. It could still be possible if Windows Store has a major surge in popularity but, as it stands right now, Microsoft seems to be spending less effort containing x86 for an eventual lobotomy.

If it does happen, it would be a concern for a variety of reasons:

  1. Governments, foreign or domestic, who pressure Microsoft to ban encryption software.

  2. Internet Explorer's Trident would have no competition to adopt new web standards.

  3. Cannot create an app for just a friend or family member (unless it's a web app in IE).

  4. When you build censorship, the crazies will come with demands to abuse it.

So I am still concerned about the future of Windows. I am still not willing to believe that Microsoft will support x86-exclusive applications until the end of time. If that happens, and sideloading is not publicly available, and web standards are forced into stagnation by a lack of alternative web browsers, then I can see bad times ahead. I will not really feel comfortable until a definitive pledge to allow users to control what can go on their device, even if Microsoft (or people with some form of authority over them) dislikes it, is made.

But I know that many disagree with me. What are your thoughts? Comment away!

Source: ZDNet

MSI's R9 290X GAMING 4G sports a variety of overclocked settings and a Twin Frozr IV

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 7, 2014 - 07:14 PM |
Tagged: msi, R9 290X GAMING 4G, amd, hawaii, R9 290X, Twin Frozr IV, factory overclocked

The familiar Twin Frozr IV cooler has been added to the R9 290X GPU on MSI's latest AMD graphics card.  The R9 290X GAMING 4G sports 4GB of GDDR5 running at an even 5GHz and a GPU that has three separate top speeds depending on the profile you choose; 1040 MHz with OC Mode, 1030 MHz for Gaming Mode and 1000 MHz in Silent Mode.  [H]ard|OCP also tried manually overclocking and ended up with a peak of 1130MHz GPU and 5.4GHz for the GDDR5, not a bad bump over the factory overclock.  Check out the performance of the various speeds in their full review.

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"On our test bench today is MSI's newest high-end GAMING series graphics cards in the form of the MSI Radeon R9 290X GAMING 4G video card. We will strap it to our test bench and compare it to the MSI GeForce GTX 780 Ti GAMING 3G card out-of-box and overclocked to determine which card provides the best gameplay experience."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Recommendations from outside the case

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2014 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: input, peripherals

The PC Perspective HWLB and The Tech Report's System Guide focus on the best internal components for your computer with the goal of guiding you to the best value for your dollar when you are constructing a new PC.  Keyboards, mice and other peripherals are left out of our recommendations as for most people it is a personal decision as to whether they prefer expensive ergonomic devices or just a basic model.  The Tech Report have changed that with their recent article which features their Staff Picks for the best peripherals of 2014.  If you are having difficulty deciding which peripherals to attach to that new PC, why not drop by and check out their favourites?

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"When we introduced our new System Guide format in February, we cut out peripherals in order to focus more closely on internal PC components. Our plan was to revisit keyboards, mice, displays, and such things in a separate guide, which we would be free to flesh out a little more and update as needed, independently of the already lengthy System Guide."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

NVIDIA 337.50 Driver and GeForce Experience 2.0 Released

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 7, 2014 - 09:01 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce experience, directx 11

We knew that NVIDIA had an impending driver update providing DirectX 11 performance improvements. Launched today, 337.50 still claims significant performance increases over the previous 335.23 version. What was a surprise is GeForce Experience 2.0. This version allows both ShadowPlay and GameStream to operate on notebooks. It also allows ShadowPlay to record, and apparently stream to Twitch, your Windows desktop (but not on notebooks). It also enables Battery Boost, discussed previously.

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Personally, I find desktop streaming is the headlining feature, although I rarely use laptops (and much less for gaming). This is especially useful for OpenGL, games which run in windowed mode, and if you want to occasionally screencast without paying for Camtasia or tinkering with CamStudio. If I were to make a critique, and of course I will, I would like the option to select which monitor gets recorded. Its current behavior records the primary monitor as far as I can tell.

I should also mention that, in my testing, "shadow recording" is not supported when not recording a fullscreen game. I'm guessing that NVIDIA believes their users would prefer to not record their desktops until manually started and likewise stopped. It seems like it had to have been a conscious decision. It does limit its usefulness in OpenGL or windowed games, however.

This driver also introduces GameStream for devices out of your home discussed in the SHIELD update.

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This slide is SLi improvements, driver-to driver, for the GTX 770 and the 780 Ti.

As for the performance boost, NVIDIA claims up to 64% faster performance in configurations with one active GPU and up to 71% faster in SLI. It will obviously vary on a game-by-game and GPU-by-GPU basis. I do not have any benchmarks, besides a few examples provided by NVIDIA, to share. That said, it is a free driver. If you have a GeForce GPU, download it. It does complicate matters if you are deciding between AMD and NVIDIA, however.

Source: NVIDIA

Rumor: VESA Might Have Accepted AMD's FreeSync

Subject: General Tech, Displays | April 6, 2014 - 02:41 AM |
Tagged: vesa, freesync, DisplayPort, amd

According to French website, hardware.fr, the VESA standards body has accepted AMD's proposal for FreeSync into an extension of the DisplayPort 1.2a standard. FreeSync is the standards-based answer to NVIDIA's G-Sync, a process for allowing the monitor to time itself according to its driving GPU. At CES 2014, AMD claimed that the technology was already in development to be used for mobile devices to save power (less frequent monitor refreshes).

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By presenting image to the user only when the work is complete, you can avoid "tearing" and latency. The tearing will be eliminated because the graphics card does not change the image being drawn by the monitor as it is trying to display it. The latency is eliminated because it does not need to wait until the monitor is ready (up to one-over-the maximum refresh rate of the monitor). It should also save power by reducing its refresh rate on slower scenes, such as an idle desktop, but that is less of a concern when you are plugged into a wall.

What does this mean? Nothing yet, really, except that a gigantic standards body seems to approve.

Source: Hardware.fr